Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Virginia Matzek awarded funding for restoration study in France

ESS assistant professor Virginia Matzek has been awarded a grant to study carbon credits associated with forest management strategies along the Rhône River in France. Virginia Matzek, along with colleagues John Stella of the State University of New York and Hervé Piégay of the École Nationale Supérieur de Lyon, will receive 10,000€ from the Institut Écologie et Environnement in France to perform the study.

The Rhône is a highly altered and channelized river, having a long history of use for navigation between inland France and the Mediterranean sea, and, more recently, for hydropower. Combined with land-clearing for agriculture, there is very little of the native riparian forest left along the main river channel. However, some stretches of the former main channel, known as the Vieux Rhône, still support riparian forest and experience some of the dynamism of flooding and sediment deposition typical of riverine vegetation.  Previous work done by Stella and Piégay has characterized the forest vegetation structure at sites along the Vieux Rhône. The new project will examine to what extent the growth of forest on sediments deposited in the old channel has increased carbon stocks in soil. Together, these data will allow the group to calculate the carbon credits that could be earned by management strategies that encourage periodic flooding and vegetation growth in the non-navigable reaches of the river.
Matzek most recent paper on this topic, “Can carbon credits fund riparian restoration?” appeared in January in the journal Restoration Ecology. That paper found that carbon credits earnable by riparian forest restoration on the Sacramento River in California were sufficient to pay back most or all of the cost of planting. Click here for a link to the abstract.
Photo courtesy of Rama. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.